Advancing diversity within law firms and other organizations should be a top priority for general counsel members—that is, according to legal leaders from several of the country’s large corporations. Based on an article by Dan Clark on Law.com, they met for a panel discussion at the Philadelphia Bar Association’s quarterly conference. They spoke on how general counsel often pushes law firms to employ diverse teams without checking in on how their diversity efforts are doing. The panel said they should seek to do so within their organization.
Clark says the panel advised legal leaders to foster judgment-free discussions surrounding race and social issues. Having these conversations and understanding your employees’ perspectives will lead to better training and further diversity and inclusion (D&I). The article mentions Stephani Lewis, general counsel of IKEA North America. “We can get together and drill down to figure out if it is a management problem, a cultural problem, or a values problem,” Lewis said on Law.com. She stated that analyzing equal opportunity employment or discrimination cases at the company’s stores allows the legal department to affect change.
Another general counsel referred to in the article, Gayle Littleton of energy company Exelon, touches on how relating these diversity issues to company culture can help spur dialogue. Littleton shared that the legal department at her organization has designated “judgment-free rooms.” It is here where they have hard discussions surrounding social issues and race; “When people feel comfortable, they can be their best selves as lawyers and do their best work for the company.”
Even abroad, diversity, equity, and inclusion must play a role in law firms, according to one panelist. Chief international counsel at Fidelity National Financial, Rodolfo Rivera, said he has to ensure law firms overseas are hiring women and other ethnic groups in places like the Czech Republic. The article says he spoke on how law firms can’t let their guard down on diversity: “Too often people think diversity is a one-off thing… it is a constant effort on any company’s part.”
You can read more about the panel discussion in the full article on law.com.
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